What is Baptism?

Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration and initiation into the church that was begun by Jesus, who accepted baptism from St. John the Baptist and also ordered the Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

Behold the Lamb

According to the teaching of St. Paul, which draws an analogy with the death and Resurrection of Jesus, baptism is death to a former life and the emergence of a new person, which is signified by the outward sign of water (Catholic baptism involves pouring or sprinkling water over the candidate’s head). Baptism is understood, therefore, as the total annulment of the sins of one’s past and the emergence of a totally innocent person. The newly baptized person becomes a member of the church and is incorporated into the body of Christ, thus becoming empowered to lead the life of Christ. Nothing but pure natural water may be used, and baptism must be conferred, as Jesus taught, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is normally conferred by a priest, but the Roman Catholic Church accepts baptism conferred in an emergency by anyone, Catholic or non-Catholic, having the use of reason “with the intention of doing what the church does.” In the spirit of Vatican II, which acknowledged the validity of any baptism that is “duly administered as Our Lord instituted it” (Unitatis redintegratio [“The Restoration of Unity”]; November 21, 1964), the church has recognized as valid the baptisms of a wide range of non-Catholic churches.

As the sacrament of rebirth, in which the baptized person is made new and permanently sealed with the spiritual mark of belonging to Christ, baptism cannot be repeated. The Roman Catholic Church baptizes conditionally in cases of serious doubt of the fact of baptism or the use of the proper rite, but it no longer approves of the conditional baptism of miscarried or stillborn infants.